Donovan eyes permanent Everton move
LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan would like to turn his brief taste of the Premier League with Everton into something more permanent once he has led his club to more Major League Soccer (MLS) success.
The 29-year-old United States midfielder, his country's all-time leading goalscorer, has spent the MLS off-season on loan at the Merseysiders and has shone in his two months there like he did during his other short spell with the team two years ago.
"It would be hard to go to any other club now so if anything were to happen I would imagine it would be here at Everton," Donovan told Reuters in an interview.
"I know for sure this year I'm going back to LA but we'll see," added the player who grabbed assists in the recent surprise wins over Chelsea and Manchester City.
"My commitment is for two more years to the (MLS champion)Galaxy and we'll see what happens after this year ... but I would obviously welcome the opportunity to come back."
The grey skies threatening to burst with rain at any moment are a reminder that while the standard of soccer in the Premier League might be a step up from the MLS, the weather in northwest England compared to Los Angeles would be anything but.
But that is a minor drawback compared to the benefits of playing in Europe with new U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann urging his players to seek experience in the big leagues to boost the national team's prospects at major tournaments.
"It's obviously not possible for everyone but that's his (Klinsmann's) desire," Donovan said.
"This year's a qualifying year and next year's a qualifying year and then we've hopefully got the World Cup in 2014 so if that's something I feel I need to do leading up to the World Cup then it's something I'd consider for sure."
Donovan, who spent some of his early days in Germany at Bayer Leverkusen, said that while the clock was against him as he turns 30 next month, he still had time for a move.
"There is no question that as you get older your desirability to European clubs diminishes," he said.
"But I still think I can perform at a high level and I think that if guys are doing it at 36, 37, then I hope I can still be doing it at 32, 33."
The U.S. have improved steadily at big tournaments, topping their group at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and Donovan said making it past the group stage was now a realistic goal in all competitions.
Donovan would dearly love the chance to help his country bid for Olympic success at London 2012 and hopes to be picked as one of three over-age players allowed to participate if his team qualify.
"I had the chance in 2000 to go to Sydney and it was one of the best experiences of my life so if I have the opportunity, especially given it's in London, I think it would be a lot of fun and I would love to go," he said.
Donovan was not the only MLS player to spend the off-season in England, with established names like club mate Robbie Keane enjoying a stint at Aston Villa and New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry making a hero's return to Arsenal.
"I do think more players should do this if possible," said Everton's on-loan midfielder. "I think it benefits our players a lot and they can learn a lot from these experiences.
"Although the level of the MLS has got better and better there is no arguing what the level is here in the Premier League and having the chance to see guys up close every day is important.
"For me the opportunity to learn from a captain who has been a captain for a long time in Phil Neville will help me when I go back to captain the Galaxy. Things like that are priceless and we should take advantage of them."
While the standard of football in the MLS is still far behind other leagues, interest in it has increased considerably thanks to the influx of big-name players who have moved there in the twilight of their careers.
By far the biggest impact has been made by England's David Beckham, who plays alongside Donovan at the Galaxy and has signed for another two years much to his captain's relief.
"What he has done for us in five short years is probably immeasurable off the field, what he has done for us on the field has become clear and I think having two more years of that will be really beneficial for all of us," Donovan said.
"From our club's standpoint and from our league's standpoint it's vital to have him."
Donovan, who returns to Los Angeles later this month, said the Galaxy's priorities this season would be to do well in the CONCACAF Champions League and retain the MLS Cup.
He said he would return to the U.S. champions fully fit and feeling confident due to his Everton experience although there was one thing he would have to do when he got back.
"I'll just have to remember to take my foot off the gas a little bit when I get home," he said.
"The pace of the game here ... is so frantic. The game will probably slow down a little for me."
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)
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